Weekend Edition: The Magic of Thinking Big

It’s the weekend, so that means we get to step back for a little bit of Philosophy instead of hard number-crunching. Today, I’ve prepared a little Story for you.

One dark February night in 1992, the skinny teenaged version of Mr. Money Mustache was sitting alone on the La-Z boy chair in his parents’ living room, staring out the window in a severely depressed funk. I had  just been dumped by my first girlfriend. Lacking in any past experience, I felt it was the end of the world. There was nothing to do besides shed tears of teenage angst to the soundtrack of tragic Pearl Jam songs.

I needed something to take my mind off of the incredible loss. So I started combing my parents’ bookshelf for something to read. Deep in a remote recess of the shelf, behind the dry Art History books and bizarre Jungian psychology tomes, a much smaller and more approachable book materialized.

The title was, “The Magic of Thinking BIG, by David J. Schwartz, Ph.D”.

Looking back almost 20 years later, I feel certain that the book must have been ‘Stashed there by a future me,  just as Biff traveled back in time to give a Sports Almanac to the teenaged version of himself in Back to the Future II, to ensure a drastically more successful life for himself. This tiny and simplistic and charmingly outdated book from the 1950s completely changed my life. And now, Junior Mustaches, I get to share it with you.

You see, with the unexpected growth of this blog’s readership, I’ve started getting quite a few naysayers and anti-mustachian accusations, especially in private messages and other discussion forums. “You’re not really retired!”. “Oh, you must be lying about this or that, because things like that aren’t possible in the USA”. “Oh, good luck having your kids go to college because it’s almost IMPOSSIBLE to get a degree without incurring a lifetime of debt.. and then the degree will already be obsolete and then it will have been a waste anyway!”

Things don’t work like that here in Mr. Money Mustache territory. Here, it’s time for the Pessimists to shut up and learn from the Optimists. And for me, my 20 year history of shockingly self-fulfilling optimism goes back to that initial late night spent reading Dr. Schwartz’s little book.

The book starts off with an intriguing premise: “…The more I observed, the more people I talked with, the deeper I dug, the clearer was the answer. Case history after case history proved that the size of bank accounts, the size of happiness accounts, the size of one’s general satisfaction account is the product of the size of one’s thinking. There is magic in thinking big…. but much of the thinking around us is little, not big. All around you is an environment that is trying to tug you, trying to pull you down Second Class Street… Meanwhile, First Class Avenue, USA is a short and uncrowded street. There are countless vacancies there waiting for people like you who dare to think big.”

As you read through, these wickedly memorable phrases continue in abundance. You’ll find yourself repeating Dr. Schwartz’s classic 1950s one-liners to your unsuccessful friends, only half in jest, as you try to explain your own phenomenal success after the pairing of David J. Schwartz, and his contemporary counterpart Mr. Money Mustache.

In the early chapters, your mind is described as a Thought Factory which employs two Foremen: Mr. Triumph and Mr. Defeat.

If you put Mr. Defeat in charge, he will very patiently have your factory workers present reasons you cannot achieve what you would like to achieve. You’re too old, or busy, or too overweight, or not qualified for the job.

If Mr. Triumph takes the floor, he switches the thought production completely. Now, every goal you set starts with the immediate assumption that it IS possible. Mr. Triumph already knows he will win, his job is simply to lay out the steps required to get to that goal, and to keep you excited about cranking through these steps.

Next is the chapter about Excusitis, the Failure Disease.  The good Doctor describes a series of real-world people he has interviewed, some who suffer from this disease, who immediately start listing excuses in the face of any challenge. “I’m fat because I have a slow metabolism”. “I can’t ride a bike because I’m too busy”. Then he contrasts these folks to a series of Big Thinkers, who never make excuses and accept challenges with curious enthusiasm. As it turns out, the Big Thinkers are always the successful ones with plenty of money and happy, balanced lives, and the Excusitis Sufferers are always the ones with big and compounding problems. Amazing, isn’t it, that these examples were all of people in the 1950s, and yet the same characteristics also define successful and unsuccessful people today?!

You will find the contrast in your own friends amazing, as you are encouraged to use your real life as a Laboratory, doing little thought-related experiments on yourself and studying the behavior of actual successful and unsuccessful people you know. The observations of the book are all spot-on when applied to real people, even from our current vantage point sixty years in the future.

As the book goes on, it gets into deeply practical strategies to be an actual big thinker yourself. Things like monopolizing the Listening, rather than the Speaking, in every conversation. And when meeting with a more senior Executive in your own company, realizing that you are not a subordinate and a boss, but two equally important people sitting down together to solve an important problem. Curing Fear with Action. Absolutely golden stuff, every page of it.

When I re-read the book just this weekend, I realized that Mr. Money Mustache has in fact become exactly like David J. Schwartz. We both start each of our golden lessons with an amusing and/or illuminating anecdote. We both write in short and punchy sentences. And we both believe that the modern world is an Absolutely Excellent place, a dense and flowery jungle completely packed with Mangoes of Opportunity that spray their Juices in our Faces every time we take another muscular step through the foliage.

But we’re not just living in denial. This confident optimism actually opens up gigantic doors for us and creates unimaginable opportunities.  The reason, of course, is not actual magic, but the effect your optimism has on the people around you. People want to hire you, or to help you, or to work for you, because big thinkers are very rare and it’s exciting to be around one. The guaranteed key to a happy (and Rich) life is to have an easy time working with other people. With this confidence, you don’t have to worry about a recession, or a depression, or using gold coins as currency in a post-apocalyptic shanty town, because you’ll always be able to work with other people, build a productive community, and have some good fun with your life. As a side effect, you will accumulate much more money.

Here on this particular blog, we’re applying Big Thinking to become Rich enough to retire drastically sooner than regular people. You will also use your new skills to do better in all other areas of your life, but it’s important to occasionally state the real reason we’re all here right now.

So if YOU are not already a big thinker, it’s time to start training with a visit to your library to find this book. Then maybe I won’t get so many doubters in the comments section*!

 

 

*Actually I’m joking about this last part – we still NEED to hear from people of all perspectives to really understand the current state of our society if we want to have any hope of helping people change. It is ironic that I told pessimists to shut up, right in the same article that I suggest that Big Thinkers focus on listening rather than speaking. But you know what I meant, right?

 

Welcome New Readers! Take a look around. Feeling Hardcore? Start at the first article and read your way through using the links at the bottom of each article. Casual Sampler? Browse the complete list of all posts since the beginning of time. Hope to see you around here more often. ~ Love, Mr. Money Mustache

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21 Responses to “Weekend Edition: The Magic of Thinking Big”

  1. Fu Man May 29, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    Hi MMM! You’re blog is my new favorite! I read your post on the ERE blog and then quickly devoured all of your posts to date. I look forward to learning more about your lifestyle and your thoughts. I am 30 and single and feel as though I’m on the right track. My mortgage and an itty-bitty remaining balance on a student loan are my only debts. My big downfall is that I bought my house in 2006 and did not put any money down. I know a big mistake. So I currently still owe $167,000 and my guess is that my house is worth $120,000 although meanwhile a house at the end of my street just sold for $60,000. I know buying the house was a big mistake but it is hard to know what to do about it. Since I’ve never had a problem making the payments my mortgage holder has no interest in refinancing and I can find no other company to refinance since I’m underwater. Anyway, I have been enjoying your blog and hope to grow a mustache someday! Cheers!

    • MMM May 30, 2011 at 12:42 am #

      Hey Fu Man, very nice to hear from you and glad you are reading.

      You’re in a good situation. It is true that you didn’t get lucky and happen to buy a house at the bottom, but at least you came through the recession with a good job and clean credit rating.

      Sure, the house went down in value, but let’s imagine this situation: You borrow money to buy a stock in the stock market for $170, then there is a stock market crash and it’s only worth $120 now. What do you do? You can’t abandon your loan, because that’s your responsibility. You owe that money. The only way to get out of it is by defaulting on the loan, which may be bad for your credit and your honor.

      There MAY be ethical ways to get out of a mortgage without being held responsible – short sale or similar – but I’m not sure if there are limitations on how much income you can have. So I won’t comment further since it’s something I know nothing about.

      But either way, you can use the housing market crash as a valuable lesson in investing – and the knowledge will earn you much more money in the future. If the houses are undervalued at $60k down the street, perhaps they would make good investment properties if the rental market is strong.

      Also either way, $167k will soon seem like a small amount of money to you, so get the house paid off, save up a bunch more money, and move on with your investing life. The housing market will recover over time as the economy and population continues to grow. Good luck!

  2. mr. s May 29, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    Hi mmm love your blog. Have a question would like to retire or at least work part time in next 5 or 6 years, would like to know if this would be possible. we make approx. 40,000.00 and spend approx. 37,000.00 , the income varies as we are self employed (cleaning co.). I think we (married no kids) have saved up a nice stash for a couple of high school educated only people. we have been VERY conservative with the money we have saved up, as we have worked very hard for and just don’t want to lose any in the markets but know we need to invest at least a little more aggressively, we have 60,000.00 in sep ira 2030 fund and 350,000.00 in credit union cds and savings at around 2%. what do you think we should put the 350 into that could produce 15 to 20,000.00 per year. we rent now and probably for the foreseeable future after selling a house in NV and moving back to Ca. (bay area) very expensive home prices. Also have no debt.

    • MMM June 2, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

      Hi Mr. S!

      Sorry, I initially missed your question due to a flood of questions this week.

      Great job on the savings! But I agree that you are losing a ton of money by having that much money tied up at only 2%. Bringing it up even to 6% would give you an extra $14,000 per year!

      You might want to invest it into either a combination stock/bond fund, like Vanguard’s VBINX (which is historically good for about 6% with fairly low volatility) , or an all-bond fund if you are really really conservative (and don’t mind getting closer to 4.5%).

      I wrote a few suggestions for further reading in the comments section of another article – see my response to Anita at the very bottom of the following page:
      http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/05/31/the-american-dream-is-slipping-out-of-reach-waaaah-waaah/#comments

  3. Roger May 30, 2011 at 5:59 am #

    I wanted to check out this book from our library system and unfortunately they don’t have it. :(

    • Rachel July 23, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

      I’m 2- years late on commenting (just started working through MMM from the start), but a lot of libraries will do an inter-library loan for you if you ask them. Often times they have agreements with other libraries that aren’t in the patron searchable catalogue. This is usually no cost or maybe a few dollars depending on the library they request it from.

      Reading through the blog from the start has already prompted a couple library holds for me including one for “The Magic of Thinking Big”. :Lovin’ it!

  4. Mrs. Money Mustache May 30, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    Hi Roger! The Mrs. here again. Good job trying to find this at the library! I sometimes recommend certain titles to my library, so you may want to do the same.

    I did find some of the book on Google Books:
    http://books.google.com/books?id=dCiKwV5CNHMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=the+magic+of+thinking+big&hl=en&src=bmrr&ei=Bt3jTf_4KYnViALx5ODIBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CEEQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Hopefully that long URL works. Otherwise, just go to http://books.google.com/books and type in “The Magic of Thinking Big”.

  5. SoCalGirlSurfing May 30, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    Awesome post! I, too, came here from Jacob/ERE – and I LOVE that you are a parent – it does make things just a bit different than life at ERE – but you are still on an awesome path.

    Really looking forward to reading more and more. Have moved you to my Yahoo news feed, front page ;-)

    Just today we decided to get on the two year plan to get-the-hell-outta-los-angeles.

    Housing costs are ridiculoso. Even a trailer park trailer costs $500,000 in this town!

    Our first step? We are going to compile 25 places we’d LOVE to live and then combine the lists and then motivate to go and visit 12 of them over the next year and a half.

    The for sale sign goes up Summer 2013…

    Let me know if you have any advice for us! – SoCal

  6. No Debt MBA May 31, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    I definitely think that thinking small or in a defeatist way is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not that thinking big will solve all your problems and magically make your goals come true, but at least then you have a fighting chance of accomplishing something big.

  7. Steve May 31, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    I think it is a case of fanboyism. Tell someone with a PS3, that you are having a great time playing some game or other on your Xbox and they’ll rant about the ring of death.

    Tell a person that you’ve made lifestyle choices that have enabled you to effectively retire 30 years before they plan to retire, and that they can make those same choices too. All of a sudden, you’ll here rants about children’s education, insurance, are you REALLY TRULY retired, unforeseen market events etc.

    If someone makes a guide on what to see at the Grand Canyon, you should be smart enough to know that they can’t have seen EVERY possible thing at the Grand Canyon and that they don’t have your exact taste in food, art, etc.

    It is a question of educating yourself about the options. You are not going to choose the same options as the MMM family or my family.

    And me? Hell, I don’t even know what I want to DO when I retire. However, I’ve seen so many older people at work discover how little planning they have done and how few options remain when they’ve been laid off after a lifetime of service. So, I want to make sure that when I retire, even if it isn’t by choice, it is on my terms.

  8. herbert salisbury May 31, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    Dear MMM,

    I listened to the audiobook version of this particular gem while working in the porn filtering business. It was very good, and I have added it to my books-to-re-read list in my expensive pocket computer device.

    Your idol, Mr. Warren Buffet, claims Dale Carnegie’s book from the 1930s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” was incredibly important to his success. I read that one years ago, and it was also quite excellent.

  9. Jim July 14, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    This seems to be an extension of an essay I stumbled upon awhile back; ‘As A Man Thinketh’ by James Allen, written in 1902. It holds a lot of the same principles, however it states them in a different way. It’s one of those great reads that I always seem to come back to, and if you like this philosophical self-help stuff it is definitely worth your time.

  10. Steve Adams21 January 8, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

    What no Amazon link? I know we’re supposed to get if from the library but then my son or daughter can’t find it I’m my bookshelves. :) Beside there’s some good in supporting good authors writing good books. Though at $2.65 used on Amazon it won’t be doing much good for an author.

    • October MacBain January 23, 2012 at 10:21 am #

      If you’re buying the book used, it won’t do the author any good anyway, no matter what price you paid. Authors do not get royalties for re-sold, used books.

      • J C February 9, 2012 at 9:22 am #

        Technically, buying a used book could indirectly help the author. If there aren’t a bunch of cheap used copies around, then people will be more likely to buy new copies. Of course, this assumes the book is still in print (or at least being sold digitally) and that the author is still alive.

  11. Coach Adam May 15, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    My dear lord… your trademark Unexpected Capitalization of words gets me every time. Hilarious.

  12. GregK June 13, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    My library didn’t have this book (anywhere in the metro area), so I sent a suggestion to them. Got an e-mail about a week later telling me they had added it to their collection — don’t give up if your library doesn’t have a book you want!

  13. Rebecca @ Trim Waist Fat Wallet July 10, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    Libraries still exist?!?! That’s news to…almost everyone.

    I could use some free readin’s on big thinking, thanks for the Google Book link Mrs. ‘stache :)

  14. CL July 19, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    I read it because of this recommendation. I found that it was excellent. I started doing the 60-second commercial as a result. The goal part is a problem. I have long term goals (such as Early Retirement / Financial Independence in my 30s – plus extremely long term goals like where I plan to retire when I’m proper retirement age) but I don’t have medium term goals. It made me feel a lot better, though, when Mark Cuban told me not to rush into anything and to just take a job that paid the bills and interested me. http://blogmaverick.com/2012/03/18/dont-follow-your-passion-follow-your-effort/#comment-76171

  15. DJ November 30, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Ok, I have barely gotten through the first few sentences but anything involving both Pearl Jam and Back to the Future in the same post may make my head explode!

    Talk about the double whammy of personal happiness for me. I’ve been reading everything in order but here’s to hoping I make it through the rest of the articles!

    Those two references combined with your incredible skill of telling the story of this approach and lifestyle has catapulted you to the top of my favorite things to read. Now it’s time to start copying you!

  16. Mac January 30, 2014 at 8:07 am #

    Love this Blog Mr Mustache! It’s very much like finding a room of like-minded misfits and having worthwhile, life-changing conversations. Thank you

    Here’s a Youtube link for an audio version of The Magic Of Thinking Big:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7gFJlwXlZI

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